Subscribe: by Email | in Reader

The Unexplorer -- Edna St Vincent Millay

Due to severe time constraints this will be the last poem I send for a month
or possibly more :( Thomas will either double his output or skip alternate
days, depending. Guest poems can be sent to him. Anyway, for a swan song of
(Poem #49) The Unexplorer
There was a road ran past our house
Too lovely to explore.
I asked my mother once -- she said
That if you followed where it led
It brought you to the milk-man's door.
(That's why I have not travelled more.)
-- Edna St Vincent Millay
Millay's lighter poetry is perhaps not as well known as her more serious
stuff, or her love poems, but it is IMHO just as good, and certainly as
delightful. This particular one captured the essence of growing up
perfectly, and so simply that I hesitate to say anything about it. It is
also, for some reason, evocative in an intertextual sort of way - I was
reminded of bits of Calvin and Hobbes, Milne, Tolkien and a few others,
though I can't really say why.

And to repeat myself, the following site contains an extensive collection of
Millay's poetry, with a very well-chosen picture before each one:
<[broken link]>

Au revoir,


Pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth -- William Shakespeare

(Poem #48) Pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth
O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever lived in the tide of times.
Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood!
Over thy wounds now do I prophesy,
--- Which, like dumb mouths, do ope their ruby lips,
To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue ---
A curse shall light upon the limbs of men;
Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
Shall cumber all the parts of Italy;
Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quarter'd with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:
And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice
Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.
-- William Shakespeare
from 'Julius Caesar'.

Context: This words are said by Mark Antony to Caesar's corpse. Antony,
Caesar's most devoted friend, has just made his peace with Caesar's
murderers (Brutus, Cassius et al.), hence the 'Pardon me'; yet, as these
words make clear, he has already resolved to take revenge on the
conspirators. As it turned out, his bloodthirsty words were indeed
prophetic: for the next 10 years, the Roman empire was wracked by a
series of civil wars, culminating (finally) in the ascension of Caesar's
nephew Octavius (later known as Augustus) to power.

Commentary: As poetry, perhaps, this speech of Antony's may not be
remarkable, but as dramatic verse it is stunning. Note the gradual
escalation of tone and emotion, from the subdued and sorrowful 'Pardon
me' at the beginning to the heraldic fury of the four lines beginning
with 'And Caesar's spirit...' at the end - as Antony's feelings run
higher, his words become more intense and the imagery he uses becomes
simultaneously more complex and more powerful. At the end of the speech,
one feels almost sorry for Brutus and his co-conspirators.

This short extract also illustrates Shakespeare's remarkable facility
for coining phrases which have passed into idiom - in just 20 lines
(that too, from a play not as highly regarded as some others), we have
'the tide of times', 'hot from hell', 'the dogs of war'...



(from that invaluable reference, Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
- )

Ate (2 syl.). Goddess of vengeance and mischief. This goddess was driven
out of heaven, and took refuge among the sons of men.

Havock A military cry to general massacre without quarter. This cry was
forbidden in the ninth year of Richard II on pain of death. Probably it
was originally used in hunting wild beasts, such as wolves, lions, etc.,
that fell on sheep-folds, and Shakespeare favours this suggestion in his
Julius Caesar, where he says Até shall "cry havock! and let slip the
dogs of war." (Welsh, hafog, devastation; Irish, arvach; compare
Anglo-Saxon havoc, a hawk.)

Uphill -- Christina Rossetti

Well, Thomas and I seem to have synched index numbers :) We apologize for
the inconvenience.
(Poem #47) Uphill
Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
    Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
    From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
    A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
    You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
   Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
   They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
   Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
   Yea, beds for all who come.
-- Christina Rossetti
Again, there is very little to say about this poem - it speaks for itself.
Like most of Rossetti's poems, it is characterized by a simple, lyrical
style and a twilight-steeped atmosphere; note also the mildly unusual, but
effective 'conversational' style.

This was, incidentally, the poem that first won Rossetti favourable public


Lament for Boromir -- J R R Tolkien

45 poems done and not a single Tolkien from me? Time to rectify that...
(Poem #46) Lament for Boromir
Through Rohan over fen and field where the long grass grows
The West Wind comes walking, and about the walls it goes.
'What news from the West, O wandering wind, do you bring to me tonight?
Have you seen Boromir the Tall by moon or by starlight?'
'I saw him ride over seven streams, over waters wide and grey;
I saw him walk in empty lands, until he passed away
Into the shadows of the North. I saw him then no more.
The North Wind may have heard the horn of the son of Denethor.'
'O Boromir! From the high walls westward I looked afar,
But you came not from the empty lands where no men are.'

From the mouths of the Sea the South Wind flies, from the sandhills and the stones;
The wailing of the gulls it bears, and at the gate it moans.
'What news from the South, O sighing wind, do you bring to me at eve?
Where now is Boromir the fair? He tarries and I grieve.'
'Ask not of me where he doth dwell --- so many bones there lie
On the white shores and the dark shores under the stormy sky;
So many have passed down Anduin to find the flowing Sea.
Ask of the North Wind news of them the North Wind sends to me!'
'O Boromir! Beyond the gate the seaward road runs south,
But you came not with the wailing gulls from the grey sea's mouth.'

From the Gate of Kings the North Wind rides, and past the roaring falls;
And clear and cold about the tower its loud horn calls.
'What news from the North, O mighty wind, do you bring to me today?
What news of Boromir the Bold? For he is long away.'
'Beneath Amon Hen I heard his cry. There many foes he fought.
His cloven shield, his broken sword, they to the water brought.
His head so proud, his face so fair, his limbs they laid to rest;
And Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, bore him upon its breast.'
'O Boromir! The Tower of Gaurd shall ever northward gaze
To Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, until the end of days.'
-- J R R Tolkien
Tolkien's massive popularity sometimes leads people (who ought to know
better) to dismiss him as being a lightweight author - a writer of
lowbrow, escapist fairy tales which no serious student of literature
should bother with.

If you ask me, nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact is, Tolkien was (and is) one of the greatest lyric poets of the
20th century; indeed, I can think of no poet after Yeats with such a
facility for creating hauntingly beautiful turns of phrase that resonate
in your memory long after you read them... you come across a snatch of
verse from Tolkien, and you think, "That sounds so *right*"... it's as
if the poetry has existed for eternity, and Tolkien simply plucked it
out of the ether and put it down on paper.

His cult following on campuses around the should also not obscure the
fact that Tolkien's  writing was carefully and painstakingly researched,
drawing on a variety of sources (Norse epic poetry, Anglo-Saxon
alliterative verse, heroic rhyming couplets...) to create an evocative,
yet deceptively simple style of his own. The above poem is a good
example of his work: the language is unstrained and natural, the metre
and rhyme is never anything less than perfect, the images (especially
the striking descriptions of whole landscapes in a few short words) are

The poem also has a wonderful unity of structure and composition - the
apostrophes to (in turn) the three winds and their respective answers
form a natural progression, culminating in the last couplet; the
repetition of the phrase 'Rauros, golden Rauros-falls' adds to the
poignancy of the lament.


PS. A brief glossary / guide:

Boromir, son of Denethor: one of the members in the Fellowship of the
Ring; died defending his weaker companions against overwhelming numbers.
Called Boromir the Tall.

Amon Hen: 'Hill of Sight'. Where Boromir fought his last battle.

Anduin: the Great River of Middle Earth; Boromir was laid to rest in a
boat and set free to float down the river and into the sea.

Rauros: 'Noise-foam'. A series of waterfalls on the Anduin, near Amon

Rohan: Just a place.

Note the detail in the geography: part of the magic of Tolkien's world
is the elaborate care with which he constructed the landscapes, the
histories, the etymologies...

Winter Night -- Boris Pasternak

Guest poem sent in by Anuraj
(Poem #45) Winter Night
  It snowed and snowed, the whole world over,
  Snow swept the world from end to end.
  A candle burned on the table;
  A candle burned.

  As during summer midges swarm
  To beat their wings against a flame
  Out in the yard the snowflakes swarmed
  To beat against the window pane

  The blizzard sculptured on the glass
  Designs of arrows and of whorls.
  A candle burned on the table;
  A candle burned.

  Distorted shadows fell
  Upon the lighted ceiling:
  Shadows of crossed arms,of crossed legs-
  Of crossed destiny.

  Two tiny shoes fell to the floor
  And thudded.
  A candle on a nightstand shed wax tears
  Upon a dress.

  All things vanished within
  The snowy murk-white,hoary.
  A candle burned on the table;
  A candle burned.

  A corner draft fluttered the flame
  And the white fever of temptation
  Upswept its angel wings that cast
  A cruciform shadow

  It snowed hard throughout the month
  Of February, and almost constantly
  A candle burned on the table;
  A candle burned.
-- Boris Pasternak
     (Excerpt from Dr.Zhivago)
     (Translated into english by Bernard Guilbert Guerney)

    The whole world knows Pasternak as a great novelist,but he is one of
the greatest poets of our century as well.His poems have been widely
acclaimed.He belonged to the league of poets which include Anna
Akhmatova,Joseph Brodsky and the likes.The poets of faith,suffering and
human emotions.

   When I first read Dr.Zhivago,I was fascinated by its richness of
poetry. But most of all I liked the poems written by the hero Dr.Yuri
Zhivago, a poet and physician caught in the midst of Russian
revolution.These are given as an appendix to the novel.

   This particular poem is my favourite among the lot.It can stand by
itself.But related to the context it has more subtle dimensions.The poem
is based on a simple incident.The hero still doesen't know the heroine
Lara, but on his way home on a cold February night, Yura notices a
candle burning through a street window(In that room Lara is taking the
decision of her life).He just writes a poem on it.Little does he know
that the happenings in
that room is shaping up his destiny.

This is how Pasternak describes the incident:

"As they drove through Kamerger street Yura noticed that a candle had
melted a patch in the icy crust on one of the windows.The light seemed
to look into the street almost consciously , as if it were watching the
passing carriages and waiting for someone.

 'A candle burned on the table,a candle burned...' he whispered to
himself-the beginning of something confused,formless;he hoped that it
would take shape of itself.But nothing more came to him."

   The poem is remarkable for its simplicity,the richness of imagery and
the evocative tone.But in a more subtle way it reflects the poet's
compassion,his astounding faith and the suffering he went through.


My Mistress' Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun (Sonnets CXXX) -- William Shakespeare

Yes, poem #45 - due to some glitch over at egroups Poem #44 didn't get out,
but, as the poet put it, be patiently, brothers and sisters [renumbered --
sitaram]. Also, I didn't have any particular theme this week, so don't
bother looking :)
(Poem #44) My Mistress' Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun (Sonnets CXXX)
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound.
I grant I never saw a goddess go:
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
-- William Shakespeare
Shakespeare is widely considered the undisputed master of the sonnet form,
and while he has written better sonnets than 'My Mistress' Eyes', this one
is particularly interesting for the twist it applies to the usual love poem.
It is somewhat reminiscent of the self-consciously clever devices the
metaphysical poets were employing at around the same time[1], but IMHO rings
far truer (I'm admittedly biased here; I like Shakespeare much more than I
do the metaphysical lot). Somewhat surprisingly, for people who have been
conditioned to think of Shakespeare as 'difficult' or 'inaccessible', most
of his sonnets are both easy and rewarding to read. A few snippets of
background info for this one:

  reek: Of smoke, vapour, perfume, etc.: To be emitted or exhaled; to rise,
  emanate. Obs. [rather than the modern meaning, to stink]

  'if hairs be wires': Ladies' hair was often compared to golden wire in
  Elizabethan poetry.

The form is, of course, the Elizabethan, or somewhat self-definitively
'Shakespearean' ababcdcdefefgg.

[1] William Shakespeare (1564-1616), John Donne (1572-1631) for example, but
I don't really know influenced either of them were by the other.


Tommy -- Rudyard Kipling

(Poem #43) Tommy
I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
    O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
    But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
    The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
    O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
    For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
    But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
    The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
    O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
    Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
    But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
    The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
    O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
    While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
    But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
    There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
    O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
    For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
    But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
    An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
    An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!
-- Rudyard Kipling
It's hard to apply superlatives to Kipling's poems. 'Tommy' is one of my
favourites, true, but that is a much-diluted honour. It's also one of his
best-known works, but again, that's saying little - the sheer volume and
diversity of his poetry has made many of them famous in many different
genres. Certainly no canonical list of war poems would be complete without
this minor masterpiece, expressing with a startling accuracy the plight of
the soldier. It is unsurprising that Kipling's reputation, great as it was,
was outstripped by his popularity - he was that wonderfully contradictory
being, the common man's Nobel laureate.

Note, once again, the wonderful interplay of form and content, as the rough
dialect of the 'common' man blends with the pulse-steady metre of the
soldier, and the way in which the natural rhythms of speech have been
captured without ever straining the scansion.


'Tommy' was Tommy Atkins, the generic term for a British soldier.

   Thomas Atkins (also Thomas): a familiar name for the typical
   private soldier in the British Army; arising out of the casual use of
   this name in the specimen forms given in the official regulations from
   1815 onward: see quots.

   In some of the specimen forms other names are used; but `Thomas
   Atkins' being that used in all the forms for privates in the Cavalry
   or Infantry, is by far the most frequent, and thus became the most
   familiar. Now more popularly Tommy Atkins or Tommy.

   * 1815 (Aug. 31) War Office, Collection of Orders, Regulations, etc.
     75 (Form of a Soldier's Book in the Cavalry when filled up).
     Description, Service, &c. of Thomas Atkins, Private, No. 6 Troop,
     6th Regt. of Dragoons. Where Born... Parish of Odiham, Hants...
     Bounty, L6. Received, Thomas Atkins, his x mark;

          -- OED

The 'Widow' in the last verse referred to Queen Victoria.


  Rudyard Kipling was, in his grand style, the bard of British Imperialism,
  and in his dialect poems, the voice of the common soldier. Anyone
  interested in the military history of the period owes it to himself to
  become at least passingly familiar with Kipling's soldierly verse.

  Kipling is often ignored today, because his exultation in the supposed
  moral and cultural superiority of European (and specifically British)
  civilization makes liberal-minded twentieth-century readers wince. But the
  human virtues that Kipling is most concerned with - courage, duty, honor,
  decency, commitment and grit - he is quick to recognize in men and women
  from all classes and races. That he shared and promoted the near-universal
  prejudices of the pre-Twentieth Century worldview should not diminish our
  appreciation of his artistic achievements.

  Aside from the normal problems to be expected of reading century-old
  poetry, reading Kipling introduces a few extra difficulties; born and
  reared in India, he liberally seasons his verse with Asian and African
  words, and his soldier poems are written in the lower-class dialect of the
  archetypical British enlisted man, dropping final "g"s and any "h"s which
  are normally

        -- David Helber, <>

And finally, Kipling's self-appointed role as the spokesman of the common
soldier is best summed up in his own words: following is the dedication from
his Barrack Room Ballads.


     To T. A.

       I have made for you a song,
       And it may be right or wrong,
   But only you can tell me if it's true;
       I have tried for to explain
       Both your pleasure and your pain,
   And, Thomas, here's my best respects to you!

       O there'll surely come a day
       When they'll give you all your pay,
   And treat you as a Christian ought to do;
       So, until that day comes round,
       Heaven keep you safe and sound,
   And, Thomas, here's my best respects to you!

              -- R. K.


Hawk Roosting -- Ted Hughes

(Poem #42) Hawk Roosting
I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed.
Inaction, no falsifying dream
Between my hooked head and hooked feet:
Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat.

The convenience of the high trees!
The air's buoyancy and the sun's ray
Are of advantage to me;
And the earth's face upward for my inspection.

My feet are locked upon the rough bark.
It took the whole of Creation
To produce my foot, my each feather:
Now I hold Creation in my foot

Or fly up, and revolve it all slowly -
I kill where I please because it is all mine.
There is no sophistry in my body:
My manners are tearing off heads -

The allotment of death.
For the one path of my flight is direct
Through the bones of the living.
No arguments assert my right:

The sun is behind me.
Nothing has changed since I began.
My eye has permitted no change.
I am going to keep things like this.
-- Ted Hughes
Hughes published a number of animal poems during his long and
distinguished literary career; these were often (in fact, almost always)
harsh and vigorous, painting a picture of Nature 'red in tooth and claw'
- violent, grim, and unsentimental, but at the same time remorselessly
true to itself.

In today's poem, Hughes uses the thought-processes of the hawk as a
metaphor for the mind of every megalomaniac who ever lived - the poem
resonates with dictatorial phrases and turns of expression. The hawk
lives according to the rules of its own morality ('No arguments assert
my right'), in a world where might is right. 'I kill where I please
because it is all mine' - violent, yes, but also chillingly insightful.
The massive egotism running through the poem is, again, telling in its
implications for the human world.

Yet the unstated theme lying underneath the hawk's soliloquy is this -
that the hawk is a product of Nature; its 'personality' is (ultimately)
dictated by Nature, and hence, somehow, proper to itself. On the other
hand, for human beings, untrammelled power is (Hughes seems to say)
twisted and sick, leading only to tyranny and oppression.

A final note: the stark contrast between the imperial majesty of
Tennyson's eagle and the vicious tyranny of Hughes' hawk is striking -
using virtually the same basic image, the two poets paint drastically
differing pictures which are, nonetheless, no less true for being worlds
apart in their truth.


PS. Hughes died last year at the age of 68, soon after publishing 'The
Birthday Letters', a deeply moving recollection of his troubled marriage
with the equally celebrated poet Sylvia Plath (who committed suicide).
His successor as Poet Laureate has not yet been announced.

PPS. A minor milestone: the Minstrels reaches its 42nd poem!

Ireland, Ireland -- Sir Henry Newbolt

A bit late for St. Patrick's day, but...
(Poem #41) Ireland, Ireland
  Down thy valleys, Ireland, Ireland,
  Down thy valleys green and sad,
  Still thy spirit wanders wailing,
  Wanders wailing, wanders mad.

  Long ago that anguish took thee,
  Ireland, Ireland, green and fair,
  Spoilers strong in darkness took thee,
  Broke thy heart and left thee there.

  Down thy valleys, Ireland, Ireland,
  Still thy spirit wanders mad;
  All too late they love that wronged thee,
  Ireland, Ireland, green and sad.
-- Sir Henry Newbolt
This is a beautifully Irish poem - musical, plaintive and poignant; it is
somewhat surprising that it was written by an Englishman. I am not, in
general, a fan of Newbolt's - his rhythms can get monotonous, his attitudes
sententious and his 'dialect poems' annoying. This piece, in refreshing
contrast, is simple yet evocative, the phrases and images ringing true, and
the repetitions and metronomic metre reinforcing the mood rather than
spoiling it. I'd love to see it set to music - it recalls some of the more
keening Celtic melodies, though as much by its content as by its rhythm.

Biographical Notes:

  b. June 6, 1862, Bilston, Staffordshire, Eng.;  d. April 19, 1938, London

  English poet, best-known for his patriotic and nautical verse.

  Newbolt was educated at Clifton Theological College and at Corpus Christi
  College, Oxford. He was admitted to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1887 and
  practiced law until 1899. The appearance of his ballads, Admirals All
  (1897), which included the stirring "Drake's Drum," created his literary
  reputation. These were followed by other volumes collected in Poems: New
  and Old (1912; rev. ed. 1919). During World War I he was comptroller of
  wireless and cables and was later commissioned to complete Great Britain's
  official naval history of the war. He also edited various anthologies of
  verse, which reveal his catholic and progressive taste in poetry. He was
  knighted in 1915 and appointed a Companion of Honour in 1922.

        -- E.B.


  [Newbolt's] early work was frankly imitative of Tennyson; he even
  attempted to add to the Arthurian legends with a drama in blank verse
  entitled Mordred (1895). It was not until he wrote his sea-ballads that he
  struck his own note. With the publication of Admirals All (1897) his fame
  was widespread. The popularity of his lines was due not so much to the
  subject-matter of Newbolt's verse as to the breeziness of his music, the
  solid beat of rhythm, the vigorous swing of his stanzas.

  In 1898 Newbolt published The Island Race, which contains about thirty
  more of his buoyant songs of the sea. Besides being a poet, Newbolt has
  written many essays and his critical volume, A New Study of English Poetry
  (1917), is a collection of articles that are both analytical and alive.

       -- Untermeyer, Louis, ed. 1920. Modern British Poetry.


The Book of Job -- Anonymous

extracts from
(Poem #40) The Book of Job
Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young
When they crouch in their dens, or lie in wait in their covert?
Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God, and
wander about for lack of food?

Do you know when the mountain goats bring forth?
Do you observe the calving of the hinds?
Can you number the months that they fulfil, and do you know the time
when they bring forth,
When they crouch, bring forth their offspring, and are delivered of
their young?
Their young ones become strong, they grow up in the open;
They go forth, and do not return to them.

Who has let the wild ass go free?
Who has loosed the bonds of the swift ass, to whom I have given the
steppe for his home, And the salt land for his dwelling place?
He scorns the tumult of the city; he hears not the shouts of the driver.

He ranges the mountains as his pasture, and he searches after every
green thing.

Is the wild ox willing to serve you?
Will he spend the night at your crib?
Can you bind him in the furrow with ropes, or will he harrow the valleys
after you?
Will you depend on him because his strength is great, and will you leave
to him your labor?
Do you have faith in him that he will return, and bring your grain to
your threshing floor?

The wings of the ostrich wave proudly; but are they the pinions and
plumage of love?
For she leaves her eggs to the earth, and lets them be warmed on the
Forgetting that a foot may crush them, and that the wild beast may
trample them.
She deals cruelly with her young, as if they were not hers;
Though her labor be in vain, yet she has no fear;
Because God has made her forget wisdom, and given her no share in
When she rouses herself to flee, she laughs at the horse and his rider.

Do you give the horse his might?
Do you clothe his neck with strength?
Do you make him leap like the locust?
His majestic snorting is terrible.
He paws in the valley, and exults in his strength; he goes out to meet
the weapons.
He laughs at fear, and is not dismayed;
He does not turn back from the sword.
Upon him rattle the quiver, the flashing spear and the javelin.
With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground;
He cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.
When the trumpet sounds, he says `Aha!'
He smells the battle from afar,
The thunder of the captains, and the shouting.

Is it by your wisdom that the hawk soars,
And spreads his wings toward the south?
Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up
And makes his nest on high?
On the rock he dwells and makes his home
In the fastness of the rocky crag.
Thence he spies out the prey;
His eyes behold it afar off.
His young ones suck up blood;
And where the slain are, there is he.
-- Anonymous
from the Bible, the Book of Job, chapter 39.

The anonymous poets and psalmists of the Old Testament (and the equally
obscure 17th century clerics who translated it into English) must surely
rank among the greatest poets of all time - no other book has been the
source of so many common turns of phrase and resonant images, and (with
the exception of the New Testament) no other book has been the subject
of so much analysis and commentary. What often gets lost amongst the
religious and ideological issues, though, is the magic of the language,
the sheer poetry, so to speak, of the verses - as this brief extract
makes abundantly clear in its lyrical beauty.


PS. A brief explanation of the context: the Book of Job is one of the
more morally complex books of the OT. Summarized, the story of Job is as
follows: Job is a prosperous and devout merchant who - for no reason at
all - is brought low by divine power - his farm is burned to the ground,
his family is killed, his fortune is lost, and so on. Through it all he
steadfastly refuses to blame God for his travails, yet he cannot
understand why he is being punished (as it seems to him). He is visited
in his sorrow by four friends, and the group of them engage in a subtle
and wide-ranging discussion of the relationship between God and Man.
Finally, the Lord himself appears to Job in the form of a whirlwind and
says, 'I am the Lord; you are just a puny human being; you have no right
to question my deeds or my motives; I do not have to justify myself to
you'. This statement is the central message of the book of Job.

PPS. I'm sure that Tennyson's 'The Eagle' owes a lot to the last few
verses above.

The Riddle of the World -- Alexander Pope

Guest poem sent in by Salil Murthy :

[We are running short of guest poems - please do send some in. You needn't
do the biography and criticism - just send in the poem and your personal
comments on it - m.]
(Poem #39) The Riddle of the World
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan
The proper study of Mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A Being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;
In doubt his mind and body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;
Whether he thinks to little, or too much;
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus'd;
Still by himself, abus'd or disabus'd;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all,
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;
The glory, jest and riddle of the world.
-- Alexander Pope
Pope's satire showcased his sometimes devastating wit but was often used
to good effect in a more sombre vein, as in this poem. You can almost
see his lip curling in line 10. A deep cynicism seems to have permeated
his works and there were many of them, seeing as he started at the age
of 12 (a gentle satire on Ovid, I think). There is also some amount of
melodrama: witness his last few lines from 'Dunciad'

  Lo! thy dread Empire, Chaos! is restor'd;
  Light dies before thy uncreating word:
  Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall;
  And Universal Darkness buries All.

(Why is the third line so evocative? Have I missed an allusion?)

Satire tending to tragedy was the particular province of Juvenal, of
whom I have heard much and read nothing. His hand apparently trembled
with rage as he penned his literary invective. This was in direct
contrast to Horace, for whom satire was pure comedy. He jested and japed
with society but made his points just as clearly. These two are
considered the 'Fathers of Satire', which has lead to much confusion in
literary circles, since they seem to inhabit opposite ends of the
satirical spectrum.

The nature of Satire was summed up very neatly by Joseph Hall :

  The Satyre should be like the Porcupine,
  That shoots sharpe quils out in each angry line,
  And wounds the blushing cheeke, and fiery eye,
  Of him that heares, and readeth guiltily.

For the etymology buffs, the derivation of 'satire' is from the Latin
'satura' (which meant originally something like"medley" or "miscellany")
but all subsequent verb extensions were taken from the Greek word for
satyr (saturos) and so 'satirize', 'satiric' et al are of Greek origin.
As the man said, 'English is a very phunny language.'

Just a few lines on that most famous of literary clubs, 'The
Scriblerus'. This is what the trusty EB has to say:

18th-century British literary club whose founding members were the
brilliant Tory wits Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, John Gay,
Thomas Parnell, and John Arbuthnot. Its purpose was to ridicule
pretentious erudition and scholarly jargon through the person of a
fictitious literary hack, Martinus Scriblerus (Martin suggesting Swift,
Scriblerus meaning a writer). The collaboration of the five writers on
the Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus began as early as 1713 and
led to frequent, spirited meetings when they were all in London.
When they were separated, they pursued their project through
correspondence. The zest, energy, and time that these five highly
individualistic talents put into their joint enterprise may be gauged by
Pope's statement in a letter to Swift, "The top of my own ambition is
to contribute to that great work [the Memoirs], and I shall translate
Homer by the by."

Of the five, only Pope and Swift lived to see the publication of the
Memoirs (1741), although miscellaneous minor pieces written in
collaboration or individually had appeared earlier under the
Scriblerus name. Although Pope is credited with originating the
character of Scriblerus, most of the ideas were Arbuthnot's, and he
was the most industrious of the collaborators. The stimulation the
members derived from each other had far-reaching effects. Gay's
The Beggar's Opera grew out of a suggestion made by Swift to the
Scriblerus Club, and the imprint of Scriblerus on Swift's Gulliver's
Travels, especially Book III, describing the voyage to Laputa, is
unmistakable. Other prominent Tories--such as Robert Harley, 1st
Earl of Oxford, and Henry St. John, 1st Viscount
Bolingbroke--were members of the club, but there is no evidence
that they contributed to the writing.


[salil has asked me to add some biographical notes etc. so... -m]

Biographical Note:

  Pope, Alexander

   b. May 21, 1688, London, Eng. d. May 30, 1744, Twickenham, near London

  poet and satirist of the English Augustan period, best known for his poems
  An Essay on Criticism (1711), The Rape of the Lock (1712-14), The Dunciad
  (1728), and An Essay on Man (1733-34). He is one of the most quotable of all
  English authors.

  Pope's religion [Roman Catholic] procured him some lifelong friends,
  notably the wealthy squire John Caryll (who persuaded him to write The
  Rape of the Lock, on an incident involving Caryll's relatives) and Martha
  Blount, to whom Pope addressed some of the most memorable of his poems and
  to whom he bequeathed most of his property. But his religion also
  precluded him from a formal course of education; he was trained at home by
  Catholic priests for a short time and attended Catholic schools at
  Twyford, near Winchester, and at Hyde Park Corner, London, but he was
  mainly self-educated. He was a precocious boy, eagerly reading Latin,
  Greek, French, and Italian, which he managed to teach himself, and an
  incessant scribbler, turning out verse upon verse in imitation of the
  poets he read. The best of these early writings are the "Ode on Solitude"
  and a paraphrase of St. Thomas `Kempis, both of which he claimed to have
  written at the age of 12.

        -- EB


  Pope's favourite metre was the 10-syllable, iambic pentameter rhyming
  (heroic) couplet. He handled it with increasing skill and adapted it to such
  varied purposes as the epigrammatic summary of the Essay on Criticism, the
  pathos of "Verses to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady," the mock-heroic of
  The Rape of the Lock, the discursive tones of the Essay on Man, the rapid
  narrative of the Homer translation, and the Miltonic sublimity of the
  conclusion of The Dunciad. But his greatest triumphs of versification are
  found in the "Epilogue to the Satires," where he moves easily from witty,
  spirited dialogue to noble and elevated declamation, and in the "Epistle to
  Dr. Arbuthnot," which opens with a scene of domestic irritation suitably
  conveyed in broken rhythm:

        Shut, shut the door, good John! fatigu'd, I said:
        Tie up the knocker, say I'm sick, I'm dead.
        The Dog-star rages! nay 'tis past a doubt,
        All Bedlam, or Parnassus, is let out:
        Fire in each eye, and papers in each hand,
        They rave, recite, and madden round the land;

  and closes with a deliberately chosen contrast of domestic calm, which the
  poet may be said to have deserved and won during the course of the poem:

        Me, let the tender office long engage
        To rock the cradle of reposing age,
        With lenient arts extend a mother's breath,
        Make languor smile, and smooth the bed of death,
        Explore the thought, explain the asking eye,
        And keep a while one parent from the sky!

  Pope's command of diction is no less happily adapted to his theme and to the
  type of poem, and the range of his imagery is remarkably wide. He has been
  thought defective in imaginative power, but this opinion cannot be sustained
  in view of the invention and organizing ability shown notably in The Rape of
  the Lock and The Dunciad. He was the first English poet to enjoy
  contemporary fame in France and Italy and throughout the European continent
  and to see translations of his poems into modern as well as ancient

       -- EB again


Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night -- Dylan Thomas

In case you missed it, there was a theme this week, which was somewhat hard
to make explicit, but which should be clear in retrospect.
(Poem #38) Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
  Do not go gentle into that good night,
  Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

  Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
  Because their words had forked no lightning they
  Do not go gentle into that good night.

  Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
  Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

  Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
  And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
  Do not go gentle into that good night.

  Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
  Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

  And you, my father, there on the sad height,
  Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
  Do not go gentle into that good night.
  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
-- Dylan Thomas
While Thomas has written a number of extraordinarily beautiful and lyrical
poems, this is probably his best known, and certainly my favourite. It is
hard to believe that anyone could approach so timeworn a theme with such
breathtaking intensity and freshenss - in particular, the verse beginning
'wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight' is IMHO Thomas at the top
of his not inconsiderable form.

Another thing to note is that the villanelle (of which more later) is an
extraordinarily difficult and constraining form; the effortless ease with
which Thomas makes it appear to be the natural form for this poem is


Martin was kind enough to tell me in advance that he was running this,
my other favourite poem (the first, in case you don't remember, was
Coleridge's Kubla Khan - Minstrels Poem #30). And though I'll never
forgive him for pre-empting me :-) I can at least derive some small
consolation from being able to add my own comments.

Having said that, though, I must confess that I can think of no comments
that could possibly do justice to this magnificent poem. If ever a
writer approached perfection in lyrical and emotional intensity, this is
it. The rhetoric is never forced, always clear and ringing, and always
profoundly moving; the images are shimmeringly beautiful, yet terribly
true; the language is simple but potent; the metre and complicated rhyme
scheme simply add to the magic. All in all, sheer genius.



Background Info:

  written May 1951.
  published in 'In Country Sleep', 1952.

  "Addressed to the poet's father as he approached blindness and death.
  The relevant aspect of the relationship was Thomas's profound respect
  for his father's uncompromising independence of mind, now tamed by
  illness. In the face of strong emotion, the poet sets himself the task
  of mastering it in the difficult form of the villanelle. Five tercets
  are followed by a quatrain, with the first and last line of the stanza
  repeated alternately as the last line of the subsequent stanzas and
  gathered into a couplet at the end of the quatrain. And all this on only
  two rhymes. Thomas further compounds his difficulty by having each line
  contain 10 syllables".

  from Dylan Thomas: Selected Poems
  edited by Walford Davies,
  JM Dent & Sons Ltd, London, 1974
  pp 131-32

On Villanelles:


  rustic song in Italy, where the term originated (Italian villanella from
  villano: "peasant"); the term was used in France to designate a short poem
  of popular character favoured by poets in the late 16th century. Du
  Bellay's "Vanneur de Blé" and Philippe Desportes' "Rozette" are examples
  of this early type, unrestricted in form. Jean Passerat (died 1602) left
  several villanelles, one so popular that it set the pattern for later
  poets and, accidentally, imposed a rigorous and somewhat monotonous form:
  seven-syllable lines using two rhymes, distributed in (normally) five
  tercets and a final quatrain with line repetitions.

  The villanelle was revived in the 19th century by Philoxène Boyer and J.
  Boulmier. Leconte de Lisle and, later, Maurice Rollinat also wrote
  villanelles. In England, the villanelle was cultivated by W.E. Henley,
  Austin Dobson, Andrew Lang, and Edmund Gosse. Villanelles in English
  include Henley's "A Dainty Thing's the Villanelle," which itself describes
  the form, and Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night."

          -- E.B.

And on a more amusing note:

  The Art of the Villanelle

    Attend this line, which you'll have heard
    repeated in this villanelle
    until you're sick of every word --

    a repetition as absurd
    as any babbled cries in hell.
    Attend this line, which you'll have heard

    re-echoed like a mocking bird,
    returning like a carousel,
    until you're sick of every word.

    (And then the rhymes! Would not a third
    with "ell" and "erd" have worked as well?)
    Attend this line, which you'll have heard

    until your vision's gotten blurred,
    until your ears ring like a bell,
    until you're sick of every word

    each time the line is disinterred!
    You'll whisper in a padded cell,
    "Attend this line, which you'll have heard..."
    until you're sick of every word.

       -- Peter Schaeffer,
       <[broken link]>


Mercian Hymns -- Geoffrey Hill

extracts from
(Poem #37) Mercian Hymns

King of the perennial holly-groves, the riven sandstone: overlord of the
M5: architect of the historic rampart and ditch, the citadel at
Tamworth, the summer hermitage in Holy Cross: guardian of the Welsh
Bridge and the Iron Bridge: contractor to the desirable new estates:
saltmaster: money-changer: commissioner for oaths: martyrologist: the
friend of Charlemagne.

'I liked that,' said Offa, 'sing it again.'


Gasholders, russet among fields. Milldams, marlpools that lay
unstirring. Eel-swarms. Coagulations of frogs: once, with branches and
half-bricks, he battered a ditchful; then sidled away from the stillness
and silence.

Ceolred was his friend and remained so, even after the day of the lost
fighter: a biplane, already obsolete and irreplaceable, two inches of
heavy snub silver. Ceolred let it spin through a hole in the
classroom-floorboards, softly, into the rat-droppings and coins.

After school he lured Ceolred, who was sniggering with fright, down to
the old quarries, and flayed him. Then, leaving Ceolred, he journeyed
for hours, calm and alone, in his private derelict sandlorry named


He drove at evening through the hushed Vosges. The car radio,
glimmering, received broken utterance from the horizon of storms...

'God's honours - our bikes touched: he skidded and came off.' 'Liar.' A
timid father's protective bellow. Disfigurement of a village king. 'Just
look at the bugger...'

His maroon GT chanted then overtook. He lavished on the high valleys its


Brooding on the eightieth letter of Fors Clavigera, I speak this in
memory of my grandmother, whose childhood and prime womanhood were spent
in the nailer's darg.

The nailshop stood back of the cottage, by the fold. It reeked stale
mineral sweat. Sparks had furred its low roof. In dawn-light the
troughed water floated a damson-bloom of dust  ---

not to be shaken by posthumous clamour. It is one thing to celebrate the
'quick forge', another to cradle a face hare-lipped by the searing wire.

Brooding on the eightieth letter of Fors Clavigera, I speak this in
memory of my grandmother, whose childhood and prime womanhood were spent
in the nailer's darg.
-- Geoffrey Hill
from 'Mercian Hymns', 1971.

Quoting extensively from George Macbeth (since I have no other sources
for this poem):

"This comparatively short, but very wide-ranging and pregnant, sequence
is Hill's most ambitious work to date. With Ted Hughes' "Crow" and
Seamus Heaney's "North" [both of which I will run in the near future -
t.] it has perhaps been the most discussed and studied new book of verse
of the 70s - deservedly, since its rich qualities yield themselves only
gradually. The originality of the sequence lies firstly in Hill's merger
of elements from the career of King Offa of Mercia, the last great king
of the midlands, with details from his own childhood in the 1930a and
during the war. We confront a small boy proud and recalcitrant,
identifying his lonely genius with the royalty of a past local monarch,
honouring his family and his country through the enriching metaphors of
history. Although quite brief, the poems is buttressed with a series of
impregnable footnotes, recalling Eliot's notes to "The Wasteland"
[another poem I'll be sending soon - t.] in their scholarly irrelevance.
Everywhere the tone and drive of the style is deeply original, and
justifies large claims for the status of Hill, even on the basis of so
few lines. At one swoop he has naturalised the prose poem as an English
form, and freed it once and for all of French associations."

I find Hill's early poems (those published in the 50s and 60s) dense and
impenetrable - they may have hidden depths, but I cannot grasp their
meaning with any surety. I much prefer his later work, especially
today's sequence - quite apart from the many resonances with history and
myth, they have a simple beauty and flow to their language which I like.

Returning to Macbeth:

"I. This hymn and commentary form to the best of my knowledge, the one
flash of humour in Hill's work
VII. A recollection of massacring frogs in  wartime, and of a
schoolfriend losing a cherished model aeroplane. The two names 'Ceolred'
and 'Albion' are almost all that link these memories with the England of
the past, but they are enough.
XVII. There seems here to be a memory of a childhood bicycle accident
sandwiched between two brief images of a later, slightly dangerous piece
of driving between France and Spain. The word 'haleine' (breath) is
meant to conjure up the idea of the horn of the hero Roland, and the
word 'chanted' suggests the Chanson de Roland in which his adventures
are recorded. The village-king is presumably Hill-Offa, who has been
hurt in the accident.
XXV. An elegy for the poet's grandmother, who worked making nails. There
is a grim bitterness in the comparison between the traditional
literariness of a Shakespearean phrase like 'quick forge', and the
brutal reality of the disfigurement inevitable in using the tools of the
nail-maker's trade. The repetition of the opening paragraph, at first a
surprising device in so concentrated a piece of writing, serves to
create both a harsh re-emphasis and perhaps also the ritual effect of a
chorus in a dirge. 'Fors Clavigera' is Ruskin's collection of letters to
the workmen and labourers of England, published in 1871-84. The title
refers to the image of Fortune bearing a club, a key and a nail."

Nothing much more for me to say.


the lesson of the moth -- Don Marquis

Background info: The narrator is a poet reincarnated in a cockroach's body.
He types by jumping on the keys of a typewriter, hence the lack of caps.
Knowing that helps :)
(Poem #36) the lesson of the moth
i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself

-- Don Marquis
I don't usually care overmuch for free verse; Don Marquis is a rare but
welcome exception. His poems are delightful, refreshing and filled with the
kind of insight one usually associates with humorists like Twain. The one
above is my favourite; while not as witty as some of the others, it makes me
shiver, which is about as good a subjective test of poetry as any I can come
up with :) It is interesting, incidentally to compare the sentiments
expressed with those in If.


  They are the most unlikely of friends. Archy is a cockroach with the soul
  of a poet, and Mehitabel is an alley cat who traces her lineage back to
  Cleopatra. Not to a cat in Cleopatra's time, mind you, but Cleopatra
  herself. Together, cockroach and cat form the foundation of one of the
  most engaging collections of light poetry to come out of the early
  twentieth century.
  The drawings that accompany some of these poems are by the brilliant
  cartoonist George Herriman, creator of the Krazy Kat comic strip. You'll
  find them in just about all of the Archy and Mehitabel books.

    -- the archy and mehitabel page,
    <[broken link]>

  We came into our room earlier than usual in the morning, and discovered a
  gigantic cockroach jumping about on the keys. He did not see us, and we
  watched him. He would climb painfully upon the framework of the machine and
  cast himself with all his force upon a key, head downward, and his weight
  and the impact of the blow were just sufficient to operate the machine, one
  slow letter after another. He could not work the capital letters, and he had
  a great deal of difficulty operating the mechanism that shifts the paper so
  that a fresh line may be started. We never saw a cockroach work so hard or
  perspire so freely in all our lives before. After about an hour of this
  frightfully difficult literary labor he fell to the floor exhausted, and we
  saw him creep feebly into a nest of the poems which are always there in

  Congratulating ourself that we had left a sheet of paper in the machine the
  night before so that all this work had not been in vain, we made an
  examination, and this is what we found:

    expression is the need of my soul
    i was once a vers libre bard
    but i died and my soul went into the body of a cockroach
    it has given me a new outlook upon life
    i see things from the under side now
    (rest of poem snipped)

    -- Don Marquis, 'the coming of archy'

  mehitabel s soul formerly inhabited a
  human also at least that
  is what mehitabel is claiming these
  days it may be she got jealous of
  my prestige anyhow she and
  i have been talking it over in a
  friendly way who were you
  mehitabel i asked her i was
  cleopatra once she said well i said i
  suppose you lived in a palace you bet
  she said and what lovely fish dinners
  we used to have and licked her chops

    -- Marquis, from 'mehitabel was once cleopatra'

Biographical Notes:

  Who was Don Marquis and who cares?

  Donald Robert Perry Marquis 1878-1937, was a newspaper columnist,
  humorist, poet, playwright and author of about 35 books of which the best
  known are books of humorous poetry about Archy the cockroach and Mehitabel
  the cat. Don's work appeared regularly in the New York Sun and the
  Saturday Evening Post, among other places.

  Don still had enough fans in 1978 that several dozen people assembled in
  Port Townsend, Washington, to celebrate his 100th birthday. Among the
  celebrants were Frank Herbert, author of the Dune trilogy; William
  McCollum, Jr., editor of The Don Marquis Letters (Northwoods Press) and
  the now-defunct Don Marquis Newsletter; Bob Lyon of The Non-Profit Press
  who published Don's play Everything's Jake in honor of the occasion; and
  Jim Ennes, author of Assault on the Liberty (Random House). The group
  shared cocktails, dinner, conversation, speeches, stories about Don, and
  Baked Beans Ambrosia prepared exactly as Don says beans should be prepared
  in The Almost Perfect State.

        -- The Don Marquis page at <[broken link]>


  "Archy and his racy pal Mehitabel are timeless," noted E. B. White in his
  essay on Don Marquis and his famous creations, and the undimmed enthusiasm
  of several generations of fans --who every year buy thousands of copies of
  Marquis' earlier collections--testifies to their appeal. A whimsical and
  sophisticated sage, archy the cockroach entertained readers with
  iconoclastic observations on pretensions, politics, and our place in the
  cosmos during Marquis' career as a New York newspaper columnist in the 1920s
  and 30s.

    -- From reviews of 'archyology', a posthumous collection
    <[broken link]>


The Windhover -- Gerard Manley Hopkins

(Poem #35) The Windhover
I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
    dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
    Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
    As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
    Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, - the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
    Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
    Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.
-- Gerard Manley Hopkins
The very first Hopkins poem I read, and still one of my favourites.
Hopkins' wonderful sense of rhythm is shown at its best here - his
sweeping syllables seem to take on a life of their own, reflecting the
glory of the falcon's flight. This is one of those poems where form and
content match almost perfectly.


First Fig -- Edna St Vincent Millay

(Poem #34) First Fig
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!
-- Edna St Vincent Millay
Another simple, gemlike poem to which there is really nothing for me to add.
Millay is high up on my list of poets whom I feel deserve to be better known -
her poetry is wonderfully lyrical, often moving and always beautiful.

Biographical Notes:

  Edna St. Vincent Millay, born in 1892 in Maine, grew to become one of the
  premier twentieth-century lyric poets. She was also an accomplished
  playwright and speaker who often toured giving readings of her poetry. All of
  that was in her public life, but her private life was equally interesting. An
  unconventional childhood led into an unconventional adulthood. She was an
  acknowledged bisexual who carried on many affairs with women, an affection
  for which is sometimes evident in her poems and plays. She did marry, but
  even that part of her life was somewhat unusual, with the marriage being
  quite open, and extramarital affairs, tho not documented, quite probable.

  Millay enjoyed her free-spirited childhood and adolescence and the creativity
  that it inspired. At the age of twenty, she entered her poem "Renascence"
  into a poetry contest for the The Lyric Year, a contest from which 100 poems
  were to be chosen to be published. It was, at first, overlooked as being too
  simplistic, However, one of the judges took a second look at it and the poem,
  now one of her most well known, ended up winning fourth place. It was that
  poem which really started her on her literary career, beginning with a
  scholarship to the then all female college of Vassar.

  Millay kept up her writing, both poetic and dramatic while at Vassar. It was
  during this time that she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her book The
  Harp-Weaver and other Poems.

        -- excerpted from the 'Renascence' website


  Undoubtedly some of the furor aroused by her earlier poems was due to the
  period of their appearance; in those first volumes Millay was the voice of
  rebellious "flaming youth, " of the young people who were bent on gathering
  "figs from thistles" and burning their candles at both ends, of the girls who
  claimed for themselves the free standards of their brothers. With the
  exception of Elinor Wylie in her last great series, no woman since Elizabeth
  Barrett Browning, it has been argued, excels her in that (Sonnet) form.
  Hildegarde Flanner spoke of "the sense of freshness and transparent
  revelation that early lyrics conveyed," of "the infusion of personal energy
  and glow into the traditions of lyric poetry, and deceptively artless ability
  to set down the naked fact un-fortified." She brought a new sense of poetry
  as song to a generation. In any poll of literate (not professional) opinion,
  it is stated that she would have almost certainly have been named first among
  the contemporary poets of America. The skill with which she employed the
  sonnet, developed over a number of years, perhaps most evident in "Epitaph
  for the Race of Man" (1928) and Fatal Interview (1931), can be explained in
  large part by the tension created between form and content: "I will put Chaos
  in fourteen lines," she said in Mine the Harvest. Moreover, it has become
  clear that she helped to free the poetry of American women from thematic

  Following her successes in the 1920's and early 1930's, Millay's poetry
  gradually suffered a critical and popular decline. Unfortunately, her real
  poetic achievements were overshadowed by her image as the free (but
  "naughty") woman of the 1920's. During the last two decades of her life,
  Millay was almost ignored critically, although her Collected Sonnets appeared
  in 1941 and Collected Lyrics in 1943. Since the late 1960's, however, there
  has been a renewed interest in Millay's works, with more sympathetic critical

    -- From <[broken link]>

Incidentally, if you would like to read more of her work, there are a number of
Millay pages on the net, of which my favourite is
<[broken link]>


A Shropshire Lad, XXXVI -- A E Housman

(Poem #33) A Shropshire Lad, XXXVI
White in the moon the long road lies,
    The moon stands blank above;
White in the moon the long road lies
    That leads me from my love.

Still hangs the hedge without a gust,
    Still, still the shadows stay:
My feet upon the moonlit dust
    Pursue the ceaseless way.

The world is round, so travellers tell,
    And straight though reach the track,
Trudge on, trudge on, 'twill all be well,
    The way will guide one back.

But ere the circle homeward hies
    Far, far must it remove:
White in the moon the long road lies
    That leads me from my love.
-- A E Housman
A brief (and slightly dated) biographical note, from Louis Untermeyer:

"A. E. Housman was born in1859, and, after a classical education, he
was, for ten years, Higher Division Clerk in Her Majesty's Patent
Office. Later in life, he became a teacher.

Housman published only one volume of original verse, but that volume (A
Shropshire Lad) is known wherever modern English poetry is
read.Originally published in 1896, when Housman was almost 37, it is
evident that many of these lyrics were written when the poet was much
younger. Echoing the frank pessimism of Hardy and the harder cynicism of
Heine, Housman struck a lighter and more buoyant note. Underneath his
dark ironies, there is a rustic humor that has many subtle variations.
From a melodic standpoint, A Shropshire Lad is a collection of
exquisite, haunting and almost perfect songs.

Housman has been a professor of Latin since 1892 and, besides his
immortal set of lyrics, has edited Juvenal and the books of Manlius. "

Housman died in 1936.

I've loved this poem ever since I first read it in Susan Cooper's
(excellent) fantasy sequence 'The Dark is Rising'. I find the central
image especially beautiful and poignant. Call me an unabashed romantic
if you will :-).

For an interesting contrast, compare this poem with Tolkien's 'The Road
Goes Ever On' (Minstrels, Poem #4).


An Irish Airman Foresees His Death -- William Butler Yeats

Guest poem submitted by Amit Chakrabarti
(Poem #32) An Irish Airman Foresees His Death
  I know that I shall meet my fate
  Somewhere among the clouds above;
  Those that I fight I do not hate,
  Those that I guard I do not love;
  My country is Kiltartan Cross,
  My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
  No likely end could bring them loss
  Or leave them happier than before.
  Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
  Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
  A lonely impulse of delight
  Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
  I balanced all, brought all to mind,
  The years to come seemed waste of breath,
  A waste of breath the years behind
  In balance with this life, this death.
-- William Butler Yeats
Simple, almost mundane language, and yet resonant. There is
little need to add "explanations" to this poem; it speaks
for itself. However, I can't help mentioning that the last
stanza -- especially the repetition of the words "waste of
breath" -- is one of my all time favourite poem slices.

Although the poem can be enjoyed on its own, it is interesting
to learn the circumstances that led to its creation. The unnamed
narrator in this poem was meant to be Major Robert Gregory, the
son of Lady Augusta Gregory, the single most influential person
in Yeats' life and writings.

Robert himself was an artist (painter) whom Yeats respected and
collaborated with; he designed numerous side sets for Yeats'
plays. In this poem Yeats celebrates the self-chosen nature of
Robert Gregory's death (he did die fighting, while an airman).
For more glimpses of this man's life and his influence on Yeats'
read the (somewhat longish) "In Memory of Major Robert Gregory".

[ Info from "The Yeats Companion" by Ulick O'Connor ]


[Chacko has asked me to supply the rest of the annotation, so.... -m.]

Biographical Notes:

  Yeats was born in Dublin on June 13, 1865, the eldest of four children.
  [...] Yeats' mother Susan Pollexfen Yeats, the daughter of a successful
  merchant from Sligo in western Ireland, was descended from a line of
  intense, eccentric people interested in faeries and astrology. From his
  mother Yeats inherited a love of Ireland, particularly the region
  surrounding Sligo, and an interest in the folklore of the local peasantry.

  Not until he was eleven years old, when he began attending the Godolphin
  Grammar School in Hammersmith, England, did Yeats receive any type of
  formal schooling. From there he went on to the Erasmus Smith High School
  in Dublin, where he a generally disappointing student - erratic in his
  studies, prone to daydreaming, shy, and poor at sports. In 1884 Yeats
  enrolled in the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin, where he met the
  poet George Russell. With Russell, Yeats founded the Dublin Hermetic
  Society for the purposes of conducting magical experiments and promoting
  their belief that "whatever the great poets had affirmed in their finest
  moments was the nearest we could come to an authoritative religion and
  that their mythology and their spirits of water and wind were but literal
  truth." This organization marked Yeats' first serious activity in occult
  studies, a fascination which he would continue for the rest of his life,
  and the extent of which was revealed only when his unpublished notebooks
  were examined after his death. Yeats joined the Rosicrucians, the
  Theosophical Society, and MacGregor Mathers' Order of the Golden Dawn.
  Frequently consulting spiritualists and engaging in the ritual conjuring
  of Irish gods, Yeats used his knowledge of the occult as a source of
  images for his poetry, and traces of his esoteric interests appear
  everywhere in his poems.

  In 1885 Yeats met Irish nationalist John O'Leary, who helped turn his
  attention to Celtic nationalism and who was instrumental in arranging for
  the publication of Yeats' first poems in The Dublin University Review.
  Under the influence of O'Leary, Yeats took up the cause of Gaelic writers
  at a time when much native Irish literature was in danger of being lost as
  the result of England's attempts to anglicize Ireland through a ban on the
  Gaelic language.

    -- excerpted from Exploring Poetry, Gale, 1997. see
    <[broken link]> for the whole essay.


  "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" is one of the three poems written on
  the occasion of the death of Yeats's friend Robert Gregory. Critic John
  Lucas, in his book 'Modern English Poetry - Hardy to Hughes: A Critical
  Survey', mentions that this poem was not only used to mourn the loss of
  Gregory but also to "affirm his commitment to values that are, so it
  seems, to become time's victims." According to Lucas, Yeats wished to show
  that Gregory chose death in order to escape the waste of age. He explains,
  "Yeats implies that Gregory knew his work to be finished in one brief
  flaring of creative intensity and that he therefore chose death rather
  than wasting into unprofitable old age." Lucas goes on to mention that the
  poem is essentially concerned with the balance between life and death.
  "Yeats presents Gregory in the act of balancing all, seeing himself poised
  between 'this life, this death.'"
         -- Exploring Poetry, Gale, 1997.

Break, break, break -- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

(Poem #31) Break, break, break
Break, break, break,
    On thy cold gray stones, O sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
    The thoughts that arise in me.

O, well for the fisherman's boy,
    That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
    That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on
    To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanished hand,
    And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break,
    At the foot of thy crags, O sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
    Will never come back to me.
-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Another nice poem by Tennyson, in which the moods, images and rhythms blend
perfectly. Note the heavy, melancholy feel of 'break, break, break',
contrasted with the lighter 'that he sings in his boat on the bay', and in
general the way the various moods of the sea are evoked, from dancing,
rippling waves and gentle swells, to the mealncholy, insistent breaking upon
a cold and lonely shore.


  Great ages are fortunate which find the one voice that can turn to music
  their otherwise mute beliefs and endeavors, their joy and pain. Such was
  Chaucer for his time; such were Shakespeare and Spenser for theirs, Pope for
  his, and preeminently Alfred, Lord Tennyson, for the time of Victoria. Our
  present disparagement of Tennyson is only our impatience with everything
  Victorian; for his poetry peculiarly expresses the ideas and the enthusiasms
  of the vast reading middle class of his day. He reasons like the middle-
  -class liberal who keeps to the Christian faith and forms, at least in the
  via media or middle course, with a mind open to the new difficulties rising
  from the new science, and the prevailing evolutionary enthusiasm for
  progress and some good time coming.
  His poetry sings the virtues and enthusiasms of his day, domestic and
  social, the patriotism, the humanitarian impulses, the utilitarian
  prosperity, the fascination of death, the sombre religion or scepticism, and
  the New Empire. At the same time he is nourishing and refining his age with
  the beauty which it had lost, and which he shapes for its needs out of many
  a corner of "the antique world." If he seems at times to be an aristocrat,
  he is such with the middle-class conservatism and faith in the old English
  order. He has as much of the body and fibre of English life in him as
  Dickens--perhaps more--not its lusty humors so much as its peculiar and
  irresistible charm mellowed by time.
  He was first of all a careful, patient workman, and no man ever toiled
  harder or more soberly to perfect himself in his craft. He kept it up all
  his long life, revising and editing early poems, reading, observing,
  travelling, scrutinizing the work of his many masters, inventing short
  snatches and cadences which he saved for later use. With his minute care he
  joined extraordinary range and variety--of metre, subject and material, and
  final effect.
  Like that otber great Alexandrian, Theocritus, Tennyson was essentially an
  idyllist, a fashioner of small and highly finished pictures. Hundreds of
  them are strewn from end to end of his work, from his Lady of Shalott, one
  of the most idyllic, through his classical poems, his pageants of the Palace
  of Art, and The Dream of Fair Women, his poems of English life, his
  Princess, Maud, In Memoriam. Of this he seems to have been aware in his very
  fondness for the word, "idyll"--"a small, sweet idyll," "English Idylls,"
  and Idylls of the King.
  But he has far greater gifts than fine minute craftsmanship. One is the
  poet's supreme gift of making the language sing a new song, verse set to its
  own indigenous tune, the gift of Burns, or Byron, and the Elizabethans. And
  though it is usually peculiar to the youthful poet, it never wholly left
  Tennyson from "Break, break, break" to Crossing the Bar.

      -- Excerpts from Charles Grosvenor Osgood, 'The Voice of England',
      read the whole essay at


Kubla Khan -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

(Poem #30) Kubla Khan
(or, a Vision in a Dream, a Fragment)

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
    A stately pleasure dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
    Down to a sunless sea.
  So twice five miles of fertile ground
  With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

  The shadow of the dome of pleasure
    Floated midway on the waves;
  Where was heard the mingled measure
    From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure dome with caves of ice!

  A damsel with a dulcimer
    In a vision once I saw:
  It was an Abyssinian maid,
    And on her dulcimer she played,
  Singing of Mount Abora.
  Could I revive within me
  Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
  And close your eyes with holy dread,
  For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
published in 1816, with the following

Author's Preface:

"In the summer of the year 1797, the author, then in ill health, had
retired to a lonely farmhouse between Porlock and Linton, on the Exmoor
confines of Somerset and Devonshire. In consequence of a slight
indisposition, an anodyne [opium, most likely] had been prescribed, from
the effects of which he fell asleep in his chair at the moment that he
was reading the following sentence, or words of the same substance, in
Purcha's Pilgrimage: 'Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be
built, and a stately garden thereunto. And thus ten miles of fertile
ground were inclosed with a wall.' The author continued for about three
hours in a profound sleep, at least of the external sense, during which
time he has the most vivid confidence that he could not have composed
less than from two to three hundred lines; if that indeed can be called
composition in which all the images rose up before him as things with a
parallel production of the correspondent expressions, without any
sensation or consciousness of effort. On awakening he appeared to
himself to have a distinct recollection of the whole, and taking his
pen, ink, and paper, instantly and eagerly wrote down the lines that are
here preserved. At this moment he was unfortunately called out by a
person on business from Porlock and detained by him above an hour, and
on his return to his room found, to his no small surprise and
mortification, that though he still retained some vague and dim
recollection of the general purpot of the vision, yet, with the
exception of some eight or ten scattered lines and images, all the rest
had passed away like the images on the surface of a stream into which a
stone has been cast, but, alas! without the after restoration of the

If I had to name my single favourite poem, there's a good chance that
this would be the one (and before you ask, yes, I will indeed mention
the other contenders when I get around to sending them). 'Kubla Khan' is
sheer magic, in its language, its images, its utter *poetry* (there's no
other word for it).

And yet... what is it that makes the poem wonderful? Admitted, the first
five lines and the last two are sublimely perfect, but the poem as a
whole? To tell the truth, I don't know. I cannot (for myself) dissect
the magic of 'Kubla Khan; I'm content to be entranced every time I read

If you're interested in an extremely detailed analysis of this poem (and
of other works by Coleridge), do read John Spencer Hill's 'Coleridge
Companion', available online at
[broken link]

And for those of you without fast net access, here are a few (long but
interesting) extracts from the book:


... Kubla Khan is a fascinating and exasperating poem. Almost everyone
has read it, almost everyone has been charmed by its magic, almost
everyone thinks he knows what it is about -- and almost everyone, it
seems, has felt impelled to write about it. It must surely be true that
no poem of comparable length in English or any other language has been
the subject of so much critical commentary. Its fifty-four lines have
spawned thousands of pages of discussion and analysis. Kubla Khan is the
sole or a major subject in five book-length studies; close to 150
articles and book-chapters (doubtless I have missed some others) have
been devoted exclusively to it; and brief notes and incidental
comments on it are without number. Despite this deluge, however, there
is no critical unanimity and very little agreement on a number of
important issues connected with the poem: its date of composition, its
"meaning", its sources in Coleridge's reading and observation of nature,
its structural integrity (i.e. fragment versus complete poem), and its
relationship to the Preface by which Coleridge introduced it on its
first publication in 1816...

... In a moment of rash optimism a notable scholar once began an essay
by declaring that "We now know almost everything about Coleridge's Kubla
Khan except what the poem is about". The truth of the matter, however,
is that we know almost nothing conclusive  about Kubla Khan, including
what it is about.This flower plucked in Paradise (or on Parnassus) and
handed down to us by Coleridge is, indeed, a miracle of rare device; but
like all miracles it is largely elusive...

... By far the most intriguing question about this most intriguing of
poems is "What does it mean?" -- if, indeed, it has or was ever intended
to have any particular meaning. For the overwhelming majority of
Coleridge's contemporaries, Kubla Khan seemed (as Lamb foresaw) to be no
better than nonsense, and they dismissed it contemptuously.   "The poem
itself is below criticism", declared the anonymous reviewer in the
Monthly Review (Jan 1817); and Thomas Moore, writing in the Edinburgh
Review (Sep 1816), tartly asserted that "the thing now before us, is
utterly destitute of value" and he defied "any man to point out a
passage of poetical merit" in it...

... While derisive asperity of this sort is the common fare of most of
the early reviews, there are, nevertheless, contemporary readers whose
response is both sympathetic and positive -- even though they value the
poem for its rich and bewitching suggestiveness rather than for any
discernible "meaning" that it might possess. Charles Lamb, for example,
speaks fondly of hearing Coleridge recite Kubla Khan "so enchantingly
that it irradiates & brings  heaven & Elysian bowers into my parlour
while he sings or says it"; and Leigh Hunt turns hopefully to analogies
in music and painting in an effort to describe the poem's haunting but
indefinable effect:

"Kubla Khan is a voice and a vision, an everlasting tune in our mouths,
a dream fit for Cambuscan and all his poets, a dance of pictures such as
Giotto or Cimabue, revived and re-inspired, would have made for a Storie
of Old Tartarie, a piece of the invisible world made visible by a sun at
midnight and sliding before our eyes."...

... Throughout the nineteenth century and during the first quarter of
the twentieth century Kubla Khan was considered, almost universally, to
be a poem in which sound overwhelms sense. With a few exceptions (such
as Lamb and Leigh Hunt), Romantic critics -- accustomed to poetry of
statement and antipathetic to any notion of ars gratia artis --
summarily dismissed Kubla Khan as a meaningless farrago of sonorous
phrases beneath the notice of serious criticism. It only demonstrated,
according to William Hazlitt, that "Mr Coleridge can write better
nonsense verses than any man in England" -- and then he added,
proleptically, "It is not a poem, but a musical composition"...

... For Victorian and Early Modern readers, on the other hand, Kubla
Khan was a poem not below but beyond the reach of criticism, and they
adopted (without the irony) Hazlitt's perception that it must properly
be appreciated as verbalised music. "When it has been said", wrote
Swinburne of Kubla Khan, "that such melodies were never heard, such
dreams never dreamed, such speech never spoken, the chief thing remains
unsaid, and unspeakable. There is a charm upon [this poem] which can
only be felt in silent submission of wonder". Even John Livingston Lowes
-- culpable, if ever anyone has been, of murdering to dissect --
insisted on the elusive magic of Coleridge's dream vision: "For Kubla
Khan is as near enchantment, I suppose, as we are like to come in this
dull world."   While one may track or attempt to track individual images
to their sources, Kubla Khan as a whole remains utterly inexplicable --
a "dissolving phantasmagoria" of highly charged images whose streaming
pageant is, in the final analysis, "as aimless as it is magnificent".
The earth has bubbles as the water has, and this is of them...

... Generally speaking, however, the most popular view by far is that
Kubla Khan is concerned with the poetic process itself.   "What is Kubla
Khan about?   This is, or ought to be, an established fact of
criticism:   Kubla Khan is a poem about poetry"...

... The dream of Xanadu itself is an inspired vision...  the artist's
purpose is to capture such visions in words, but in attempting to do so
he encounters two serious difficulties:   first, language is an
inadequate medium that permits only an approximation of the visions it
is used to record, and, second, the visions themselves, by the time the
poet comes to set them down, have faded into the light of common day and
must be reconstructed from memory.   Between the conception and the
execution falls the shadow.... the vision of Kubla's Xanadu is replaced
by that of a damsel singing of Mount Abora -- an experience more
auditory than visual and therefore less susceptible of description by
mere words...


Of course, if you want to know what the poem *really* means, and also
who the 'person on business from Porlock' *really* was, you have only to
read Douglas Adams' (truly amazing) book, 'Dirk Gently's Holistic
Detective Agency' :-)

Oh, and (before I forget), the rock music connection: Rush (and if you
haven't heard Rush you haven't lived) did a terrific song called
'Xanadu', based on this poem. I like the live version on the album
'Exit... Stage Left' best. Well worth a listen.

Another rock music connection (I'm really spoiling you here): Frankie
Goes To Hollywood used this poem as the basis for their debut album,
'Welcome To The Pleasuredome'.

And finally, no less a personage than Martin DeMello (Hi Martin!) asked
me what the rock connection was for my previous poem. I had thought it
too obvious to mention, but evidently you can't be too careful these
days... anyway, the poem's structure is based on the hoedown, a
traditional song pattern and the basis for half the rock-and-roll
numbers ever written; the final verse

"You put your bombers in, you put your conscience out,
You take the human being and you twist it all about"

is, of course, a direct take on an r-and-r standard.